In both of these tech-dystopian works, the future is an anxious bird, flying in circles over a hot, flat, crowded landscape, biding its time until an ISIS-operated drone sprays weaponized bird flu in its face. What else can it do? The clock is ticking down and nothing is sustainable. The seas are boiling, filthy with plastic bags and drowning polar bears; the smoggy air will soon be swarming with (more) U.S. military drones, rogue-state nuclear drones, homemade bioweaponry, and Amazon’s fleet of robotic delivery devices.
Even now, as we guiltily crouch in our resource-gobbling suburban fortresses, reassuring ourselves that no carbon-based life form is perfect, criminals are creating vast, organized, untraceable economies on the so-called Dark Web while Big Data rips our lives apart right before our eyes without any repercussions. All of our personal data—Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, nude photos, names of children, pets, and second cousins—is bundled by Google and Facebook and Amazon and then sold to data brokers; they then peddle it to Vietnamese identity-theft crime rings, pedophiles, terrorists who make AK-47s on 3-D printers, and freelance assassins with termite-sized drone armies.
Knowledge is not power—or at least not power designed to be exercised by the pipsqueak likes of you or me—and information doesn’t want to be free, as it turns out. That may have been its stated goal back in 1999, but these days, information wants to embarrass you, get you fired, cut you off from the power grid, bankrupt you, drive your children to suicide, kill you, and then take over the world—which is about to be too hot, flat, and crowded to inhabit anyway.